by Don Robishaw
It was the dark of the evening and temperatures were below freezing. With an unlit Marlboro between his teeth, the able-bodied seaman turned, bent over, and cupped his hands to block out the wind and seawater.
by Phillip Parotti
In the time of Camelot, long before I took up teaching as a career, I answered John F. Kennedy’s call by doing my bit as a naval officer. As a result, on a warm day in August 1963, I made my way to San Diego, where I reported aboard a new destroyer. As “George,” the junior Ensign aboard, I didn’t have immense responsibilities as the Assistant Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. In fact, I was a gopher for the ASW Officer, a Lieutenant who had risen through the ranks. “Mustangs,” men formerly enlisted, were some of the most knowledgeable people in the Navy, and while I might have been the ship’s “George,” I wasn’t thoroughly green. Four years at Annapolis had taught me that Mustangs knew the ropes and that to prosper, I would be wise to listen to them. My training started at once.
by Fred Fredine
As we taxied for takeoff, I looked out the back of the C-119 cargo area and could see the Army sergeant running behind the plane trying to catch up. The afternoon jungle rain, which only an hour ago sent torrents of water cascading over the perforated steel plate that covered the runway, was now escaping through the holes as streams of vapor carrying the smell of rotting vegetation toward the sky, and leaving the PSP wet and slippery. Using the web straps attached to the side of the plane for handholds I struggled toward the ten-foot opening in the rear of the plane, where the clam shell doors used to be, and stepped over the rollers that we nailed to the floor.
by Barbara Mujica
Jamali didn’t want to work with the Americans, but he needed the money. He had plenty of reasons to detest the foreigners. His sixteen-year-old cousin Zaid had been caught in the crossfire at an American checkpoint and lost an arm, and Jamali had lost his livelihood because now nobody bought the fine wooden cabinets he made. Americans had brought war to Iraq, and war had left the country in shambles. Jamali thought about it a long time before he accepted the offer from Lieutenant Montez.
by Joshua Calloway
I stand in line, a thousand people in front of me. We serpentine around counters and shelves stacked full of boxes, envelopes, card stock, watermarked stationery, and collector edition stamps adorned with Christmas bells, Dreidels, antique cars, movie scenes, and influential women throughout history. We shuffle on, one foot at a time, prisoners in a chain gang. I came here directly after work in an attempt to save some time. I immediately regret this decision, as I can feel the eyes of all the other customers fall upon me, sizing me up in my uniform, from head to toe. Some look at me with disgust and turn away, oddly this doesn’t bother me. Others shoot me a quick smile or nod and with this I feel myself starting to have a mini panic attack. I wish I had a fucking Valium! I inhale deeply through my nostrils and pinch the bridge of my nose with the thumb and index finger of my left hand.
by Joseph Couillard
I can smell the salty, sea air from the bottom of the trunk.
I let it fill my lungs, breathing life back into my oxygen-deprived muscles.
I look up.
The ladder-well is like a telescope, magnifying the holy blue sky above.
I begin my climb.
With each rung I shed a layer.
I reach the top nearly weightless.
I rub my eyes, coaxing them awake.
The waves fall gently against the side of the boat.
The sun has already baked the deck dry.
I stagger before I find the horizon to steady myself.
I sit down on the tough, textured deck.
It digs deep into my skin, but I don’t mind.
Someone is playing classic rock over an amplifier.
The cooks are flipping burgers on a charcoal grill.
Almost everyone is smoking.
The captain looks down from the bridge like a proud father.
I look to the east, knowing that is where home is, but for the first time in a while it doesn’t seem to matter.
I look around.
They are singing, laughing, dancing; all the things that just minutes before had been surrendered to the shadows of the boat.
Sitting there, with the sun setting all around us, we talk of love and of family and of how at that moment we would pay just about anything for a six-pack.
I take a deep breath and let it all wash over me.
For a second it almost makes it all worth it.
LTJG Joseph Couillard is a Submarine Officer stationed in Bangor, Washington. He earned his commission through the NROTC program at Iowa State University in 2013. In his free time he enjoys writing, reading, playing basketball, and spending time with his girlfriend.
by Jesse Frewerd
This is just wonderful, absolutely wonderful, just hang on a little while longer, man. Can you believe they fucking extended us for another three months when we are already a year into this deployment? We were in Kuwait, for Christ’s sake; washing our trucks of the desert’s paint and just a couple days from going home. It’s the equivalent of being on the verge of climax only to find out it was just a dream, and you’re alone, on a shitty cot, in a room with ten other guys.… I would have just preferred the damn orders before we got to Kuwait. Extend us while we were still in Baghdad, not with every bag packed ready to go home.
by Alfred Abbondanza
[Scene opens: total darkness, an adult male voice is heard rambling:]
I spent a year driving through Improvised Explosive Device [IED] infested roads, survived one ambush, drove over one land mine, drove by who knows how many hidden IEDs, carried a locked and loaded rifle, with the intent to use it if needed, I was face to face with all sorts of unknown Iraqis outside the wire, I listened and bit my tongue when soldiers in MY unit say they should not have to go outside the wire because it is not THEIR job or they have small children, I wondered with great guilt why “them” and not “me” when I heard of a convoy ambush or I was sitting at a memorial service for a few fallen comrades and you ask me if I am OK? I am pretty far from being OK.
by Julia Pritt
Running was a big part of my elementary experience—usually in the form of races from the lunchroom to the blue ladder. In my kindergarten eyes, it was a large and stable thing to behold, whether looking from a distance basking in its glory, or being at its top breathing in fresh air. On many instances, my journey to this coveted spot was interrupted by an array of classmates who took it upon themselves to enlighten me. One boy in particular decided it would be fun to berate me with gags about my mom. Ranging from fat jokes to ones based on her so-called lack of intelligence, which I supposedly inherited. Thankfully, he added an extra level of class by saying “Yo’ Mama…” before each dig.